Image by Steve Reeves

Quieter Than Snow

I went to school a day too soon
And couldn't understand
Why silence hung in the yard like sheets
Nothing to flap or spin, no creaks
Or shocks of voices, only air.

And the car park empty of teachers' cars
Only the first September leaves
Dropping like paper.
No racks of bikes
No kicking legs, no fights,
No voices, laughter, anything.
Yet the door was open. 
My feet sucked down the corridor. 
My reflection walked with me past the hall.
My classroom smelt of nothing 

And the silence rolled like thunder in my ears.
At every desk a still child stared at me
Teachers walked through walls and back again
Cupboard doors swung open, and out crept

More silent children, and still more.
They tiptoed round me
Touched me with ice-cold hands
And opened up their mouths with laughter
That was
Quieter than snow.


from Walking On Air (Hodder Children's Books, 1999) © Berlie Doherty 1993, used by permission of the author

Books by Berlie Doherty